Little ICT focus in provinces

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 02 Mar 2010

While several premiers mentioned ICT projects in their recent state of the province addresses, ICT was not highlighted as a vital sector and no major technology projects were announced.

During several addresses over the past week, premiers concentrated on public investment infrastructure programmes, responses to the economic recession and enterprise development.

Echoing president Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address, which spoke of improving government's responsiveness and accountability, premiers also noted they would focus on improved service delivery.

While seven provinces mentioned ICT programmes, the Eastern Cape once again failed to allude to any IT programmes, or the role technology would play in creating jobs and improving service delivery.

Meanwhile, North West premier Maureen Modiselle outlined the role ICT would play, saying ICT is the “gateway to Africa's development”. She announced that libraries in the province would be equipped with Web-based information accessing technology and said she would continue to explore best models for ICT connectivity in the rural areas.

Indicating the connectivity model the province was likely to adopt, Modiselle noted that cellphone literacy rates in the province were fast surpassing computer literacy, and that this would influence any decisions taken.

She also spoke of regional integration programmes, saying the North West was strategically located as a gateway province to serve as a hub for ICT infrastructure, and its expansion and extension to other SADC countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia.

Little mention

While not going into any details, Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale mentioned ICT and information society development programmes as crucial initiatives in the province's employment, growth and development plans.

Also lacking detail were comments by KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize, in his address. Speaking about the importance of skills development, training and job creation, he noted the important role of ICT skills in these developments.

Mkhize also highlighted the ICT training partnership between the National Institute of Information Technology of India and the Moses Kotane Institute, which aims to create 10 000 skilled graduates over the next three years.

Free State premier Ace Magashule also provided little mention of ICT in his address. He noted the importance of ICT in the health sector, saying his focus would be to ensure every hospital and clinic has the necessary ICT equipment.

Future hopes

Despite presenting a vision for ICT in the Western Cape in her 2009 state of the province address, premier Helen Zille failed to expand on any of her previous plans for the sector.

Zille noted that the province would build, as part of its infrastructure plan, four science, technology engineering and mathematics centres of excellence.

The Northern Cape also highlighted the role of maths, science and technology training. Premier Hazel Jenkins noted that 50 schools, including the 17 Dinaledi schools in the province, would benefit from a boost in education programmes.

Jenkins, once again, emphasised the provincial government's commitment to the Square Kilometre Array project. She noted that all studies had been completed, while the construction of the support base and on-site complexes was finished, and four of the seven Karoo Array Telescope dishes had been installed.